Closer to an announcement but ran into a snag. Hopefully to be resolved in the next week! Outside of that, we’re super low on drabble again so if you want to string together 100 words of horror we’d be happy to take them!
‘Trembling With Fear’ Is Horror Tree’s weekly inclusion of shorts and drabbles submitted for your entertainment by our readers! As long as the submissions are coming in, we’ll be posting every Sunday for your enjoyment.
The Elephant Curse
Bianca was Mira’s fifth elephant and hopefully her last, because any more would surely have the animal rights groups up in arms and waving their torches. None of us could figure out exactly why all of Mira’s elephants were dying. She took exceptional care of each one of them and would be put out for entire weeks on end when it happened, each one more heartbreaking than the next. They had to practically peel her from the stomach of the last one as she clung to its still belly and wept into the dry folds of its rough skin as though her tears would revive it. If Bianca didn’t survive, it might finally be time to wrap it up and develop some new act for Mira. She was young and talented, so it wouldn’t be difficult, but she’d always wanted to work with the elephants, she was so fascinated by them, and she would never be the same if they were gone.
Everyone held their breath in the weeks where Mira got to know Bianca, who was a little smaller than the others but had this beautiful pale hide, almost white, that would look marvelous under sparkling dressings and spotlights. She was smart and clever and responsive, immediately taking a liking to Mira and constantly playing with her hair. Perhaps, we all though hopefully, though we were almost too afraid to hope, the previous ones had just been building up to this pairing, as if Mira had to experience the loss and heartbreak to truly appreciate the creature that was now in her care. It seemed a bit of a cruel method on the part of Fate, but we were eager to justify anything we couldn’t quite explain.
The first show was a success, as well as the second, and the third. Every show after that was fraught with an undercurrent of nervousness. Is this the one where it will finally happen? What about this one? But night after night, the bond between Mira and Bianca grew, and they continued to perform well with no signs of sickness or injury or fatal accidents. After a steady month of shows, many of us around the camp were able to breathe easier again, confident that the fifth time had been a charge. But some of us still worried, Mira included, and we weren’t about to let our guard down any time soon.
We were just outside of Louisville when Mira came to my wagon, so pale and drawn as to look like a skeleton in a spangled headdress, tears in her eye. I didn’t need for her to speak to know what had happened, but she needed to say it, to let it out, which released a floodgate as I opened my arms and let her settle into them. “Something’s not right with Bianca,” she sobbed. “Something’s wrong. It’s happening again, Jeanette. It’s all happening again.”
I tried to hush her, tried to quiet her disturbed soul, but no amount of hair petting and tight squeezes could alleviate her despair. “There, there,” I said, though a darkness was forming into a hard lump against my heart. The poor girl didn’t know, but we had been discussing her strange and expensive predicament, realizing that we couldn’t keep wasting so much time and money on the elephants, popular as they were. There just wasn’t as much of a market for travelling circuses these days, and every set-back was enough to send us miles and miles behind where we needed to be.
We didn’t want to believe it. Mira was such a sweet girl, talented, with a brilliant smile that charmed audiences into emptying their pockets. But she was clearly cursed. When I saw Bianca lying on her side in a matted bed of straw, her enormous stomach practically vibrating with the labor of her heavy breaths, I knew what had to be done.
“Mira,” I said, my voice sticking in my throat, heavy and bitter on my tongue, “this isn’t good. This isn’t good at all. You know we can’t keep replacing your elephants. We know you take good care of them. We know you’re doing nothing wrong, so clearly you have to see what we see. It isn’t the elephants, Mira; it’s you. But there is one way to stop all this, and I think you can gather what it might be.”
She looked up at me, her eyes as round as a full moon, thinking at first that I was going to suggest she pursue a new act. And then realization dawned on her, and her whole body seemed to melt in dismay. “No, Jeanette, no, please. It isn’t true! I’m sure the curse seemed like a real thing back in the day, but you know it can’t be real. Curses aren’t real. They don’t really exist, it’s all just superstition. It’s got to be something in the water, or maybe something we’re feeding them. It’s not me, Jeanette. It’s not a curse.”
“There’s only one way to know for sure,” I murmured. “I’m so sorry, Mira.”
She saw the knife in my hand, opening her mouth to scream, but it was too late. With two swift movements, I stabbed the poor girl in her stomach, then pulled her head back to slit her throat. The blood I smeared onto Bianca’s white belly, along with herbs and oils and incantations, left a faint pink stain on her skin, which lingered there to remind us, to help us never forget poor Mira. Her love for the elephants wasn’t enough to overpower how toxic she was to them, but my magic was. We brought in a new elephant trainer, one who wasn’t as charming or effervescent as Mira, but I’m fairly sure that Bianca will now outlive us all.
L.S. Engler writes from outside of Chicago, though she grew up chasing dragons in the woods of Michigan. She is the editor of the World unknown Review and author of the Slayer Saga, a zombie trilogy. Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including the Saturday Evening Post, DarkFuse, and Pulp Modern.
Just A Taste
Lisa licked the blood from her fingers.
Metallic. Salty. A bit sweet.
It was always strange when it tasted sweet.
A flavor profile she had almost forgotten.
Thankfully Diabetes was the new norm and those who cheated.
They were a mouthful but she loved slurping them down.
Humans. Dominant species of the planet.
What a laugh.
Her kind roamed the stars long before these apes lost their hair.
She would again once she could get off this backward planet.
That’s all she could get out the next day when they found her.
Tripping, knee deep bathed in the hobo’s blood.
Roses Are Red: Volume 2
The rose bush was Sarah’s pride. With reason, it had featured in many a gardening magazine, winning many prizes. Its petals were bright red, blood-red almost. The thorns; deadly. She smiled as she prepared the fertilizer. Her secret fertilizer. She mixed the ingredients, and added her special touch, leaving just a few drops for afterwards.
She stopped briefly to listen to the news; another child-Shaun- had gone missing.
“Terrible shame,” she muttered.
Sprinkling the mix with the soil, she poured the drops she had saved over the petals.
The petals opened to receive them.
“Good-bye Shaun. Thank you for helping.”
Justin Boote has lived for over twenty years in Barcelona, Spain, plying his trade as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant. He has been writing horror stories for just over a year, and currently has 8 published in diverse magazines including for Lycan Valley Press, Deadlights Shotgun magazine, Zimbell House Publishing, Dark Dossier Magazine and The Horrorzine’s summer edition.
He is also a member of a private writer’s forum called The Write Practice where he has also acted as a judge on two ocassions for their contests.
He can be found at Facebook under his own name, or at [email protected].
A Sea Of Unnamed Faces
She sat on the couch, her fingers tapping her handbag.
He’d done this hundreds of times. The key was to wait. If he pressed her too much he might spook her.
“I’ve been seeing things”
“Ghosts. It’s like they’re always lurking in my peripheral vision. I’m not crazy. I swear”
“You aren’t,” he said flashing an affable smile.
“But ghosts don’t exist”
“But psychopaths do,” she said before she slit his throat.
She placed the bloodied knife back into her handbag and walked out of the therapist’s office. She was forever lost in the sea of unnamed faces.
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